A Week in Cuba @ Brisas Guardalavaca

When we decided to treat ourselves to some sun and sand this month,we didn’t choose Brisas Guardalavaca randomly-we’ve been there a couple times before.

But after  a trip to the Dominican Republic 3 years ago that left us with a bad impression, we decided to go back to see if we loved it as much as before.
Turns out, we did.
We weren’t looking for a week of running around crazed trying to see and do everything.

We’ve done that already. Our plan was to lie under a shady tree and read, swim in azure water warm as a bath, sleep with the sea air wafting in the patio doors, eat fruit while the juice runs down our chins and just relax. That’s it.

Brisas Guardalavaca is one of the grand dames of the Holguin district-meaning it’s been there for over 20 years. And you can tell it’s not brand spanking new.  But  still, the resort has a lot going for it.
Pros:

  1. It’s 437 rooms-both in the hotel and villas are sparkingly clean. The grill bar is clean. The buffet restaurant- La Turquesa- is clean. I even saw staff raking the bloody beach of seaweed the other day. It’s clean there.
    Now, I can’t speak for all the rooms and facilities but I am going out on a limb and say it ‘s all very  clean.
  2. The beach is gorgeous. There are plenty of beach chairs-which I can say for sure is not always the case in other resorts.
  3. The staff is outstanding. We remembered Mario from the hotel  buffet restaurant from 8 years ago and he is still there and just as personable. And he’s not the only one.
  4. There is an onsite bank which gives you the correct exchange Find the current exchange here
  5. And an onsite post office
  6. The rooms have a little fridge in them with a bottle of free water. I took mine when it was empty and got it refilled at the buffet restaurant.
  7. Easy walking distance to a outdoor market where you will find handcrafted and mass made items for sale as souvenirs and such.It’s MUCH cheaper than the stores in the resort. I bought beach bags for 10 cuc, a new sun hat for moi for 6, a little shirt for my tiny grand son for 7 cuc, and various and sundry other goodies. They all seem willing to negotiate a bit. They will try and get you to look at their stuff as you walk around, but it’s nothing like we experienced in the Dominican Republic
  8. I don’t drink, but when I did, I remember the beer is as good as our Canadian stuff-and apparently it still is.

Cons

  1. The wifi sucks. Yes it does. Although it’s cheap , only 1 cuc per hour  (  Cuban Convertible Peso )is a tourist peso worth about 1.33518 CAD as of this writing) it’s slow and  kicks you off randomly) Luckily, I don’t go to Cuba to go online.
  2. The food gets bit boring. Full disclosure- we didn’t bother making reservations for any of the A La  Cart Restaurants-too lazy. Still chefs will whip up a mean omelet or pasta dish right  in front of your eyes and there is quite a few other meal options. And the fresh mango and pineapple! Yum. There’s also a grill that is open 24 hours except when the buffet restaurant is open  that serves burgers and fries-great after a flight that serves no meals.
  3. It’s hard to get single pesos and that’s what you want for tips. So guard them -use bigger bills for purchases at the market and the gift shops -you’l get 3, 5 10 and 20 cuc when you exchange money.We went to the bank a bunch of times instead of exchanging a wad at once (as if we had a wad) They won’t give you singles randomly even if you ask.
  4. The selection of free activities hasn’t changed in 10 years.  There are kayaks and paddle boats to use for free as well as tennis, aqua size, snorkeling, Spanish and salsa lessons and more. I say bring on the stand up paddle boarding. I’ve been wanting to try it and not many people know me there.
  5. No coffee in the rooms! There is tea though.  No milk either, just sugar.

A few  more  recommendations:

We took a train- not  a real train, mind you more like a grown up kiddie tour train up into the  countryside to a museum, a village and a farm.

a view of Brisas Guardalavaca
a view of Brisas Guardalavaca

The El Chorro de Maita Museum  $2 cuc. Simply said, it was a cemetery with uncovered bones of indigius people, Not my thing. A walk across the street to a Taina village $5 was interesting and gave a real glimpse of village life. Local people met the train to offer fruit for sale. One elderly lady simply begged. I felt for her and gave her a cuc but then I realized she probably met every train with the same request (in Spanish) for each person.  We lastly stopped at a farm -the highlight to my mind.The farmer chopped and passed out samples of sugar cane, let us try coconut milk and treat us in his tiny house to some local coffee. All for free.

There are lots of guys hawking carriage rides outside all the resorts for about $5 cuc pp. They will take you for about 45 minutes to an hour and show you the school the clinic, local restaurants ( some will try to convince you to stop for a meal) If you can possibly, outside Brisas Guardalavaca, grab Noburto’s carriage. He will give you lots of local information -much more than the other guys- and best of all, he doesn’t slap his horse to make it get going. It may not hurt them but I don’t like it.

Carriage Ride Brisas Guardalavaca
Carriage Ride Brisas Guardalavaca

If you are on the ground floor don’t be hanging your resort supplied beach towel on your patio. They get stolen -maybe to replace towels that were stolen from them and the resort with charge you dearly for them.

One final thing.I think. Beware of airport workers asking you to change their Canadian money for Cuban stuff.  If you give them 5 cuc for $5 they pocket the exchange.You can do it if you want-but just so you know